This week our highlights reel of fave images come from our current creative workshop The Magic of Childhood, where students are having loads of fun exploring documentary and lifestyle photography to capture the magic of their children’s everyday moments in strong storytelling imagery.
So naturally, today we’re running with the theme! Enjoy this fabulous collection and grab the tips for taking gorgeous documentary style photos and overcoming common challenges when you can’t control everything!
We can’t always control where the moments happen, or even where we position ourselves in order to capture them. And that means sometimes we have to shoot in full sun. Challenging? Yes. Impossible to get great photos? Absolutely not and this shot proves it!
Her brimmed hat creates some portable open shade and prevents any distracting bright spots of light landing on her features. The bonus of this light is it saturates colour for beautiful, bold photos.
Related: Shooting in Harsh Sun
Head out in the hour just before sunset when the sun is low in a cloudless sky, and backlight your subject for a dynamic effect.
Related: Take Your Own Golden Hour Photos
Lightbulbs and lamps create funky white balance and harsh shadows. So when shooting indoors during the day always turn them off and look for natural light. Unless you’re experiementing with studio lights but that’s a whole other post!
But what about when the moments happen indoors at night? Avoid the pop up flash and aim instead to use the ambient light and your camera settings to get your exposure. This kind of light is hard light and as a result it will create some harsh shadowing. But just aim for sharp, clear and well exposed… this is about capturing authentic life, embrace it and focus on the moment, perfection isn’t required.
In these situations your photos will often turn out very yellow or very blue, depending on the colour temperature of the light. Most cameras have custom white balance settings for that situation, so you can experiment. But personally I find those custom settings rarely give me a good result, or if it does, it’s inconsistent from photo to photo.
Related: What is White Balance?
The good news is white balance is easy to fix in processing if you shoot in RAW, so I stick with auto white balance then tweak it after the fact.
Related: JPG vs RAW – What’s the Difference?
Documentary style photos work best when you include some of the surroundings for context. So use a wide angle lens and get in close to your subject. A wide angle lens is anything from 18-24mm on a crop sensor camera, or 24-35mm on a full frame camera.
Try a wide angle lens + a bubble machine!
Most of us know the pain of photographer’s child syndrome! But there is such a thing as the kid who stops what they’re doing and freezes for the camera with a big cheesy smile! Every.single.time. If that sounds like one of yours, use a long lens so you can shoot unawares from further away and capture more authentic moments.
Related: What Lens Should I Use?
When it comes to capturing kids at play, there’s always the chance for some fast action. But if your shutter speed isn’t fast enough, that motion will result in unwanted blurry photos. For action like this shot below, you’d want at least 1/400 then balance it with your other settings. And if you’re outdoors, you should be able to shoot using fast shutter speeds without compromising your exposure.
Related: Get Sharp Photos of Moving Kids
Using a fast shutter speed indoors can be tricky as you have less available light. This is when you need to embrace ISO… don’t be afraid to push it, and don’t be tricked into underexposing a touch with a high ISO thinking you’ll fix it later. Trust me, you’ll end up with more grain if you do this.
Get creative and use a slow shutter to capture motion and convey movement, like this one shot at 1/25. But when doing so, make sure you only capture blur from the motion, and not accidental blur that can come from camera shake when we use slow shutter speeds. So hold your camera firm and steady… you could use a tripod or rest your camera on a surface but when capturing kids ike this that’s a pretty inhibiting way to shoot.
Related: Intentional Blur
Using a vast expanse of negative space is a really easy way to create powerful compositions. In this shot below, the sky adds a fantastic sense of scale, then the inclusion of their reflections adds a foreground element, depth and interest for a really striking shot overall.
Speaking of reflections, use windows to incorporate them and create a strong frame for your subject at the same time.
Don’t shoot everything from your adult standing height. Really think about what you want to highlight then consider the best way to highlight it. Get up and shoot down…
…get down low and shoot up…
… or get down to eye level to capture the action.
Life isn’t all roses and rainbows. Capture all their moments… these are the photos that will make you smile when you look back on them (even if they weren’t smiling at the time!).
I hope you enjoyed this collection and if you get out and try some of our photography tips, tag us on Instagram so we can see your work!